This summer I have become a woman possessed. What started out as casually bringing a few courgettes along on playdates as a novel hostess gift culminated last week in me landing a rather shocked friend with a massive amazon box full of marrows and courgettes. It was so heavy I couldn’t even carry it, I had to beg her two eldest sons to lug it out of the car for me. When she weakly protested that she couldn’t possibly take that many, she’d be depriving us of our harvest, I bit back the manic laughter bubbling to my lips and remarked darkly that what I’d given her had appeared in a matter of days. Then I drove off, fast enough that she couldn’t give them back. A week later and she’s still sending me brittle and cheerful messages about the ways in which she’s soldiering her way through the box and I am nothing if not awed (and slightly ashamed) by her determination to use them all. It’s coming to the end of courgette (or zucchini) season here in the UK, so here are some of the things we’ll be doing to round off the rest of the harvest.
Courgette gluts are a bit of a cliche really aren’t they? But when you’re in the throes of one, there’s nothing to do but grit your teeth, keep harvesting every day and to start scouring the annuals for ways in which to use them up. Here, in no particular order, are my suggestions:
- Soup. In particular my courgette and mint soup. It’s absolutely delicious and very fresh. It tastes good served cold in the summer, and freezes beautifully so that you can enjoy the taste of summer when it’s cold outside (and because history has dulled the memory, you actually miss the taste of courgettes)
- Gifts: People that don’t grow courgettes are often pleased with the gift of fresh courgettes from your garden. Friends, dog walkers, people that wait at the same bus stop, they are all potential courgette recipients. People starting to cross the road to avoid you when you approach with your vegetable basket? Step up your ingenuity. Give them to the teachers at school, drop them at a food bank, leave a box somewhere with a note (possibly one saying “hah! No backsies!”).
- Omlette: Gently salute a finely chopped onion and finely chopped garlic head (or just a few cloves if you’re not quite as keen as we are) in some olive or rapeseed oil. Wash and thinly slice some courgettes. Saute over a gentle heat until the whole pan is a soft warm garlicky mess. Beat two eggs together for every three or four courgettes you’ve used and season with salt and pepper. Pour them over the vegetables and leave the mixture to set on the bottom. After about three minutes on the heat, pop it into a hot oven and leave it for ten minutes. Voila, quick and easy omelette.
- Show and tell: send them to school with children so that they can learn about where food comes from, If you don’t have any children, arrange to give them to someone else’s in the name of education.
- Healthy courgette pasta: slice courgettes thinly and saute them before adding them to any kind of pasta with sauce that you’re making.
- Marrow carving: Suddenly discovered a marrow larger than the cat under one of your plants? Don’t despair, save them somewhere cool until halloween and hollow them out so that you can carve them as candle holders. See, you’re fashion forward too!
- Lazy ratatouille: Roughly chop the same number of courgettes and peppers into a deep roasting tray. Add a roughly chopped onion for every four courgettes that you use, and several handfuls of cherry tomatoes. Peel and crush some garlic cloves (I use at least one whole head). Drizzle the lot with olive or rapeseed will and stir so that everything is coated. Pop into the oven on a medium / high heat for about an hour or until the onion is well caramelised and the peppers are slightly blackened around the edges. Either serve mixed in with wholegrains with a squeeze of lemon juice, or whiz the lot in a blender with a tin of chopped tomatoes to make a really versatile base sauce.
- Griddle them: Slice them lengthways three times and rub a bit of oil into them. Whack said slices on a grill and voila, griddled courgette
- Polpettes: Saute some finely chopped courgettes with a bit of garlic until soft and mushy and then stir in a couple of eggs (I use one large egg to every three courgettes) and some parmesan to taste and drop large spoonfuls onto a hot pan that’s been lightly oiled. Fry until golden (perfect for little hands).
- Cake: In most areas of life, there are experts. In jam, there is the WI. In cake, there is the National Trust. So branch away from carrot cake (yesterday’s news) and try using up your summer garden glut in this Lemon and courgette cake. It’s light and airy and, you know, full of courgettes. I’ve been looking for a courgette cake recipe that will freeze well and am yet to find one and I can’t imagine, delicious as it is, that this one would be the one I”m looking for. But with a cup of coffee mid-afternoon as you stare out at the late-August rain (it is a NT cake, after all), it can’t be beaten!